40 Before 40: Challenge #29 completed!

8 Jul

After more page-turning than I can remember, I am finally finished with my Challenge 29! I have now read all of the books on the list of 40 books every woman should read. Some of the books I didn’t enjoy very much but others of them I loved. I am so glad that I decided on this as one of my challenges. I will definitely be hunting down more books by the same authors in the near future.

Here are the last seven books that I read to complete the list:

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

This book was incredible. I was grasping for breath by the end because I was reading the pages so quickly so that I could get to the end that I forgot to breathe. The characters in the book are all connected to a book called The History of Love somehow and the origins of the book is exploded by switching between the past and the present. The story isn’t long but it is so well written that I had trouble putting the book down. The ending took me by complete surprise. An incredible read!

Broken Harbour by Tana French

When I realised that this was a crime novel I was so excited about reading the book and having found another crime writer to read. I wish I hadn’t wasted my enthusiasm. I thought that the crime and what had happened was leaning towards the very obvious side and for me the pace of the story was relatively slow. It’s a long book; I read pages and pages wondering what was going to be the thrilling out come but I was left constantly disappointed. It was different to the crime novels that I normally read in that there was more description but I prefer crime stories where the description is kept to a minimum so the story has a punchier pace.

My Antonia by Willa Cather

This book was strange. It’s set in the America Midwest and the story revolves around the Shimerda family, who move to America from Bohemia, and their hardships in establishing a new life. Jim, who is the narrator of the story, falls in love with the daughter of the family, Antonia, and learns to read and takes an interest in cooking and housekeeping while becoming very popular with the locals, while he leaves to finish his education. He arrives back to find that she is married with children. It’s a sad story full of regret and missed chances. Jim realises that he never should have left Antonia behind and so does the reader.

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

I had looked at some reviews of this book online and I wasn’t looking forward to reading it. Firstly, it is very long (more than 700 pages) and, secondly, there were a lot of unfavourable opinions about the book. I did take me a while to get into the book. It is so descriptive that I was beginning to wonder if the online reviews were going to turn out to be right. Once I got used to the style of writing though, the story was enjoyable. The books centres around two young architects and how different their lives end up as they make different creative and lifestyle choices during their life. The book is essentially about greed and selfishness but I also think there is a message of hope that individuals can triumph over the establishment.

Cherry by Mary Kerr

This was an autobiographical work about the author’s adolescent period. The story itself was very interesting as was the style of the writing. The author used the second person singular throughout the book which is not typical for an autobiography or most other fiction books. It gave the story a very personal edge to it – it felt like I was experiencing what happened to the author at the same moment that I was reading it. Parts of the story were hysterically funny, others I could completely identify with. The book is actually a sequel to an earlier book but I don’t feel I missed out by not having read the first installment.

Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

This book was non-fiction and retold the story of a family growing up in the Bronx in the late eighties. Most of the people ended up in jail, regularly took drugs and had problems with their family relationships. It was a long but interesting read that made me realise how privileged my upbringing was.

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

I wanted to like this book so much but I can’t say that I did that much. The book is divided into different notebook that author Anna Wulf documents her life. She then tries to tie all of the stories together in a final ‘golden’ notebook. I found the structure confusing to being with and then one of the notebooks was all about communisim in the 1930s. I’m not a fan of politicial discussion in non-fiction books. Considering the book was written in the 60s, there were liberal discussions about sex and the role of women. I’m now not in a rush to read any more of Lessing’s books which I am disappointed about considering she is a Nobel Prize winner.

And that is all 40 books from the list finished and another one of my challenges is completed. I am so glad that I decided to include this on my list: I’ve read so many books from authors that I haven’t heard of before. Not all of the books have been easy to read or 100% enjoyable but the ones that I did enjoy made the whole challenge worth it.

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So long June!

30 Jun

When I thought that May was full of madness, I had no idea what June was going to bring. It’s been another crazy month.

Here is what has been going on:

  • I was in Berlin for a Netball Tournament at the beginning of May. It was great fun and we came 3rd overall. I still haven’t done any sightseeing in Berlin even though I have been twice now. I plan to change that next year!
  • I also had trials for the Swiss national netball squad. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it into the squad. It was a big ask a) at my age and b) considering I have only just come back to netball in the last 6 months. However, I don’t regret it for a second. Lots of people are too scared to put themselves forward to be judged and, even though I wasn’t successful this time, I enjoyed the experience. I did end up in an ambulance at the end of the day. One of my team mates fell over and sprained her ankle badly. The ambulance crew were nice enough to take all 3 of us (one patient and two team mates) to the emergency clinic plus all of our sports bags and overnight bags. My biggest regret was not turning on the blue lights; the button was in touching distance and I’m sure I could have switched it on before the paramedic realised what I was doing. Luckily, my team mate, Emma, hadn’t broken anything but she will be on crutches for a while.
  • I have finally got to grips with my bike gears. It sounds completely stupid that at my age I am only just finding this out. My excuse is that they stopped doing the cycling proficiency test at our primary school the year before I would have been due to do it so I’ve never had the chance. I never liked cycling that much as a child and, when I was at university, it was easier to walk than to come back to where you have left your bike to find out it had been stolen and you have to walk home anyway. It only took 15 minutes to look on the internet and then go out for a ride and try to remember what I had learnt. I still need more practice but I’m hoping I can tackle a few more hills soon.
  • I have completed two more of my 40 Before 40 challenges. You can read about the new sport that I have taken up here. The other challenge I will be writing about this week.
  • Just when I was getting ready to admit defeat and thrown it in the bin, my orchid has come into bloom again. Hurrah! My other one looks like it is ready to throw in the towel though. Boo!
  • I have now finished my current job and I am more than excited to start my new job on 1st July. I am nervous that my expectations are too high but I’m sure that everything will fall into place once I am there and I get started.
  • The heatwave that has hit Europe has been unbearable. The weather can be as hot as it wants if I don’t have to be dressed for the office and can have a sleep during the afternoon. I’ve had to change my running routine so that I go later in the day rather than straight after work. But at 8.30pm it is hotter than 28 degrees and is still way above my optimal temperature for running in. My app pointed out helpfully that my runs have been at an increased effort for the past week – which is 100% down to the heat!
  • I’ve applied to be a volunteer at the Youth Winter Olympic Games in Lausanne 2020. The last time I volunteered at an international sporting event was back in 2007 at the EuroHockey competition in Manchester. I thought it was time to thrown my hat in the ring and become a volunteer again.
  • I’ve also spend my first weekend back in England in 2019. My brother and I were meant to be going to see Jimmy Carr but the date has got postponed. Instead I enjoyed a weekend with family, shopping and eating and watching Toy Story 4 – it doesn’t come out in Switzerland until end of August 2019 and there is no way I could wait that long!

With a new job and unpredictability with the weather, I have no idea what July is going to bring with it but, whatever it does bring, I’m ready!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

40 Before 40: Challenge #31 – completed!

26 Jun

Number 31 on my 40 Before 40 list was to take up a new sport. I have already taken up an old sport this year by getting back into netball and I have been more active and getting back into running and cycling now that my knee injury is no longer a problem.

The sport I have decided to take up is shooting. Before I moved to Switzerland I had never even held a gun nevermind actually used one. But living with the President of one of the local shooting clubs got me intrigued and when I said that I wanted to go along and try it, he was (relatively) happy to take me along.

I’ve now participated in a few competitions and I seem to be improving and getting the hang of it each time I practice. It doesn’t seem all that hard, does it? But you have to be so precise and stay as still as possible while pulling the trigger and dreading the bang coming.

I did wonder if shooting is a sport. Some people might argue that it’s not. The fact that it is in the Olympics isn’t conclusive evidence because there are lots of sports that aren’t in the Olympics, like my beloved netball.

A definition of sport that I found on Wikipedia is sport includes all forms of competitive physical activity or games which,  through casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical ability and skills while providing enjoyment to participants, and in some cases, entertainment for spectators. So that settles it! Shooting is definitely a sport.

I’m most proud of having hit the target in the dead centre at the Feldschiessen competition in May. This competition is harder than a regular competition because you have to shoot a certain number of times in a set amount of time (6 shots in 6 minutes then 3 shots in a minute, then another 3 shots in a minute and finally 6 shots in 1 minute). If you don’t manage to pull the trigger within the time limit, the shots don’t count. It means that the pressure is on, especially when someone is behind you shouting out how much time is left. I shot a 100 and 96 in that competition. Unfortunately, at the range they don’t print any number above 95, instead they print a star, which is why on the photo you can see that I have 2 stars. I was only 2 points on winning a prize but the 100 made up for my disappointment.

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The shooting club, where I am a now an active member, celebrated its 150 year anniversary last weekend. There was a celebratory dinner on Friday with entertainment and on Saturday the club house was open to anyone who wanted to come and shoot. As I was working all day manning the bar, I didn’t get to shoot but I will be going to a training session soon to enter the anniversary shooting competition. Then in August I will probably go to Wyberschiessen (Ladies Shooting Competition) in the local area to compete for the first time in that competition.

I’m glad that I choose a sport that isn’t completely focused on cardio. Not because I don’t have the desire to do something physical but because it is a sport that can teach me different things. I have learnt (or am still learning) how to achieve complete concentration and how to remain calm under pressure, which are both good skills to have in life.

My challenge was to take up a new sport and I will be sticking this one in the future.

Book Challenge by Erin 11.0

19 Jun

In less than two weeks another Book Challenge by Erin is starting and I couldn’t be happier. Since finishing the last challenge, I’ve found it hard to get back into reading and my impressive run rate of an average of 2 books per week at the start of the year has really slipped off.

If I manage to complete the challenge and read all ten books on my list, I will have read more than my target of 52 books for 2019.

Even more exciting for me was that I got to choose one of the book categories for the other participants because I was the third person to complete the challenge in January. My category was “Books shortlised for the Booker Prize”. There are so many books on the list that I thought it would be a good selection for people to choose from.

Here are the categories and books that I have chosen for the challenge (all books have to be over 200 pages long):

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Freebie (any book that is at least 200 pages long):

Stories We Could Tell by Tony Parsons

I bought this from a second hand book shop about six months ago. I have no idea what it is about so it will be a surprise when I start reading it.

A book beginning with “F”:

Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco

I have had this book for years. I recently moved it to my book shelf in the living room and it has been slowly staring me out but now I have a great excuse to read it. A friend said that it was a hard book to get into but he really enjoyed it. Let’s see…

A book with “rain”, “thunder” or “lightning” in the title:

The Rainmaker by John Grisham

I was struggling to find a book for this category until I found a copy of this lurking on my kindle. I really like being able to read books that I already have at home. It makes the challenge so much easier.

A book with a building on the cover:

The Last Tenant by Sarah Kisielowski

This is a book that was written by a friend of mine who goes to the same writing club as me. She has told me a lot about the plot and about the writing process and I am really interested to learn the whole story in more detail.

A book written by an author who has an initial in their name:

Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

This is another book I picked up from the second-hand bookshop and I have been meaning to read for a while. I think it will be interesting to read something written by her that doesn’t involve wizards and magic.

A book with an item of clothing in the title:

The Black Glove by Geoffrey Miller

This was another category that I struggled to find a book for. All I know about this book is that it is a detective story. I will have to order this from the library when I’m ready to read it.

A book set in India:

Kim by Rudyard Kipling

I’ve never read anything by Rudyard Kipling, apart from a few poems. I have been getting into more historical novels lately so I thought this might be another good book to read. I think I am right in thinking that this is a semi-autobiographical book.

A book shortlisted for the Booker Prize:

Milkman by Anna Burns

This is a recent winner of the Booker Prize. Since buying the book two months ago, I have heard some bad reviews about it. I will try to remain open-minded about it until I have read it myself but I’m now not so keen to read it as I was before.

A book with a character who has supernatural powers: 

Carrie by Stephen King

I am pretty sure that this book will keep me up all night, either because it’s so good I can’t put it down, or because I’ll be so terrified that I can’t get to sleep at night. Even so, I’m looking forward to reading this because I haven’t read any horror stories recently.

A book with the same title as a book in another genre:

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

This is another book that I have heard good things about. It looks like it will be an easy read which I will be glad off because some of the other titles are quite long.

I’m now excited about starting the challenge. Also impressive is that all of the books, apart from one, I already have at home on the shelves or on my kindle, which means that my shelves will be cleared out again for some different titles in the autumn!

Netball in Berlin

11 Jun

Someone recently asked me if the reason why I was playing netball so often these days was because the club enters overseas tournaments. It is definitely one of the reasons but not the only reason! Last weekend we were in Berlin to take part in the 2nd International Mixed Tournament organised by Berlin Netball Club.

It turned out to be a bit of a stretch to get the minimum of seven players for the tournament so in addition to myself, Lorna, Jess and Sarah H from Zurich, we managed to beg, borrow and steal Sarah G from Geneva Netball, Elina from Zug Netball and two Berlin players, Danielle and Lili, who had only recently moved to Berlin.

Pink Power: (L to R) Sarah H, Lorna, Danielle, Elina, Jess, me Sarah G and Lili

I began to think if our whole campaign was completely jinxed when half of us got lost in a park on the way to the tournament venue(!) but after finally arriving, meeting our new team mates and changing into our bright pink tops for the first time, we were all ready to get stuck in and enjoy ourselves.

Our first match was against Amsterdam. It wasn’t an easy start at all. By the time we had found our feet we were already 5 goals down. The guy who was marking me had arms like an organutan and was ridiculously quick but it was a good game and we managed to pull back some goals so it definitely wasn’t a white wash.

Next we played Berlin 1. Another hard game and the favourites to win the tournament overall. It was 5-3 at half time, which really showed how hard we were working and that we were already beginning to gel as a team. At half time they made some substitutions and ended up winning the game.

You might think that after 2 losses in our first 2 games that we might have been feeling demotivated. Instead we were radiating positivity (possibly because of the pink tops).

The next few games we were able to chalk up some convincing wins against Berlin 2, Brussels and Hamburg. It was at this point that we collectively realised that we had a very realistic chance of finishing in fourth place. So we decided to keep our heads and aim for 4th which would be an incredible achievement considering we had never played together.

Our hopes and dreams were changed completely when we played Stockholm, a tricky team that I remember playing earlier in the year in Copenhagen, who are well-rehearsed and had some good male players as well. We were leading them at half time reasonably comfortably. In the second half, I was studying the clock, counting down the minutes as I realised that they would have to score 6 goals in 2 minutes and there was no way that we were going to allow them to do that!

We wrapped up with wins against Bielfeld and Paderborn and secured 3rd place. An achievement that we had to pinch ourselves to believe. To celebrate we headed to an amazing cafe that sold cheesecake and ate them in the sunshine in the park – not the same one that half of us got lost in! In fairness, I would have suggested we eat cheesecake if we would have come last place.

Grinners are winners! A pre-cheesecake selfie!

The icing on the cake was at the awards ceremony in the evening. We were suprised to hear that we had been voted “Best Team of the Tournament” by the umpires and match officials because of how friendly and sportman(-woman?)like we were. It was a great end to a great day.

Prizes and well-deserved drinks!

I have now been to Berlin twice and not seen one tourist attraction; the first time I was at a conference with work and I didn’t leave the hotel. So it looks like I will have to go back to play netball in Berlin next year as well.

Thanks to all my fabulous team mates Lorna, Jess, Sarah G, Sarah H, Elina, Danielle and Lili, who are not only fantastic netballers but were great fun off the court as well. Special mentions to Lili, who at 11 was the youngest player in the competition and is a superstar, and her parents and younger brother who supported her and us throughout the whole competition.

Team work makes the dream work!

May Madness

31 May

The past month has got to be one of the craziest months I have had in a long time. I have had some strange experiences this month. I want to share these experiences with you just to make sure that it was the month that was mad and not me.

Firstly, the weather this month has been nothing short of bonkers. I’m not sure has been the catalyst for the whole month or not. It’s been blazing hot one day followed by torrential rain for 4 days. On Wednesday it even hailed for about 30 minutes. It is the craziest weather I have ever experienced in May since moving to Switzerland.

May was also the month that I went back to work after a period of job hunting. A company had offered me a 6 month contract. It wasn’t really ideal but it was an offer and at the very least I was confident that I would be able to learn something new and see how another company functioned. After the first week, I realised why I hadn’t been offered a full time contract: they are likely to be closing the company by the end of the year. It was a bit of a shock.

I was even more shocked when I received a phone call on the following day from a company that had interviewed me for a job back in March. They had decided to employ a candidate who had applied internally. To say I was gutted not to be offered the job was an understatement. They phoned me because the position was vacant again and was I still interested? I had a interview the following week and an hour after the interview they had offered me the job. How mad is that? Of course, it meant that I had to hand in my notice 3 weeks after I started my new job which I felt bad about but I was so happy that I got the job that I wanted so much.

I also went on a personal development workshop. It was an intense event and lasted 3 days. To say that I was out of my comfort zone was an understatement. I was so far out of my comfort zone that I couldn’t actually see the edge of it anymore. We were asked to do a lot of exercises with people we didn’t know which was quite intimidating. But I learnt and realised so much about myself. I realised that the reason that I have come to a halt on writing my book has less to do with me not thinking that I don’t have the right talents and skills to complete a book that people will enjoy reading and has more to do with being judged, both professionally (from the point of view of the book being panned) and personally (that my character will be judged as well). I know that this is just my worry manifesting itself in my head to stop me from completing what I want to do. I found it completely liberating and I have made a concrete plan about how to get my book finished plus some other projects that I have been putting off because of worry and anxiety.

I can’t not mention that I managed to hit the dead centre of the target while taking part in a shooting competition this month. I was amazed! My boyfriend, who was by my side to coach me, almost had a heart attack. He was never expecting that to happen. I suspect he was actually slightly jealous.

The final bit of May Madness was my attendance at netball training this month. The netball club ran a competition that every one who attended every training in May would be win a free drink in the pub at the end of the month. Despite an injury to my finger (which I still can’t bend fully and is painful), I managed to claim my cider!

There have been lots of coincidences this month. Luckily they have all been happy coincidences so I have no reason to complain at all. I feel very positive about the next few months. I will soon be starting a new job, plus I will be going home for the first time this year, I am going to Berlin for a netball competition and there will be big celebrations later in June when the shooting club will be celebrating 150 years as a club. I can’t wait!

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Finger on the trigger

27 May

I’m recovering from a nasty finger injury that I stupidly got while playing netball last week. I say stupidly because it was clearly my fault. I jumped for a rebound but I didn’t have my hand fully open and the ball caught my right index finger flush on its tip at speed.

It hurt straight away but I carried on play in pain. By the end of training my finger was red, swollen and painful. By the next morning I had reduced mobility in the joint and it was painful to bend.

It is only now that I have realised how often I use my index finger on my right hand. I hurts when I type, I can’t pressed down any buttons or even the nossel of a harispray can or perfume bottle and doing up buttons is also extremely tricky. I have resorted to using my left hand as much as possible but, as I don’t write with my left hand, it is not always the best solution.

One thing did improve unexpectedly this weekend. The shooting season is underway again. I was seriously doubting that I would be able to pull a trigger with my battered and bruised trigger finger. While I didn’t manage to shoot consistently enough to win a medal, I did manage to hit a 100! A 100 is the score that you get when you hit the target dead in the centre. That means I hit the dead centre (1cm) from 300m away. How amazing is that! Imagine how much better I would have performed without my finger feeling like it was on fire.

The main thing that I am grateful in in this whole situation is that I managed to do this in training and not in two weeks when I will be away with the netball team participating in a tournament in Berlin. If this had’ve happened in the first game of the tournament, it would be likely that I wouldn’t be able to continue and would spend the rest of the weekend warming the bench.  However, now I have learnt my lesson to be ready with my hands open to catch the ball so this sort of injury should not happen in the future.

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